Every year for International Day of the Girl we place girls and young women in prominent positions around the world – in companies, governments and institutions – to make a powerful statement about equal representation.
This month, we placed more than 1000 girls and young women around the world in media organisations, calling for them to demonstrate their commitment to female representation by pledging to actively seek comment from girls and young women, particularly marginalised communities.
Here in Australia, a number of major Australian media outlets pledged to amplify the voices of girls and young women, inviting our Youth Activists into their offices and teams and running female centric content for International Day of the Girl.
At the Australian Film, Television and Radio School our Youth Activists Varsha and Diego (pictured above) spent an entire day briefing heads of the school and students on writing strong feminist characters and eliminating sexism from mass media.
We sat in on the marketing and executive meetings, gave a talk at the student breakfast and attended classes to encourage discussion about women and girls in media. I didn’t know what to expect, but at the end of the day we had a veritable mountain of stories from both staff and students about the way they’re already helping to change the narrative in the industry. We left AFTRS with a sense of energy, possibility and hope – a really good time overall.”
– Diego Garcia, Youth Activist, Plan International Australia
Ope and Megan (pictured above) were invited to act as guest editors of The Age’s opinion page for International Day of the Girl, planning and commissioning pieces from young women and girls.
On the 11th of October, Win Win magazine handed over the reins of their social media channels to youth activists while the Canberra Times are running an all female opinion to celebrate International Day of the Girl.
And SBS on Demand invited our youth activists to curate a special International Day of the Girl edition of SBS on Demand films, documentaries and TV shows that smash gender stereotypes and promote strong female characters.
Elizabeth (pictured below) is one of our Sydney-based Youth Activists and here she shares what she learnt while curating a roundup of films for a special International Day of the Girl edition of SBS On Demand.
Earlier this month, girls rights charity Plan International released a study with the Geena Davis Institute, Rewrite HerStory, which analysed gender representation in 56 top-grossing films of 2018 in 20 countries. It found women and girls were four times more likely to wear skimpy clothing than men (in fact one in three had sexy clothes on). And twice as many women were shown nude than men (15% compared to 8%).
The box office films weren’t great at portraying positive role models either. Women in leadership positions were much more likely to be sexually objectified than men, with 15% having the camera focused on their body parts in slow motion compared to 4% of men.
Representation of women and girls in film is important. You can’t be what you can’t see, right? Young girls need to see role models, complex characters who develop and grow, learn from their mistakes, are in positions of power, and those who stand up for what they believe in. In fact, not just young girls, all of us need more of this on our screens.
Because our media should be a reflection of our society but what we’re currently seeing in this mirror is warped: it’s not really what women and girls are about. We’re more than sex objects, we don’t just exist for men’s gratification. We aren’t catty and one-dimensional. And believe it or not, when we have conversations with each other, we talk about things other than the men in our lives. We need to reframe our understanding of how we portray female characters. We need to see strong, emotional, caring, intricate, troubled, selfish, aspirational, daring girls – not merely archetypes repeated over and over again.
Full credit: SBS is one of the best in the business at showcasing brilliant films and TV series that break these tired old conventions and tell meaningful stories with female characters who are complicated, flawed, have many dimensions and personal challenges. So when our group of Plan International Australia youth activists got the chance to do a #GirlsTakeover with SBS On Demand and curate our very own list of films and shows that show kick arse women doing kick arse things, we were over the moon!
Please put some of these on your wish list. If it’s not usually your thing, we challenge you to reconsider! In the spirit of International Day of the Girl, why not just give it a go and get to know a different kind of female character than the vapid nonsense Tinsel Town trots out year after year. These films we have chosen are a start, they feature diverse female voices that speak with authenticity. Dive in, head first, challenge your expectations, and think critically about girls on screen.